Can Poptimism Save Literary Culture?


Literary criticism suffers from elitism, claims Elisabeth Donnelly over at Flavorwire, and the solution is introducing a poptimism revolution. The term poptimism originated in the music world as a reaction to stodgy music reviewers’ love of Bob Dylan and “argues for a more inclusive view of what matters and what’s pleasurable in music.” Donnelly insists that book reviewers and literary culture could stand to benefit from a wider audience by embracing popular books. Rather than shunning writers like Jennifer Weiner and books like Fifty Shades of Grey, these should be brought into the fold expanding the literary community:

Immersion in “literary” culture, the cycle of writing criticism and having your work be the subject of other writers’ criticism, is often boring half the time, and far too often irrelevant. A vital literary culture needs to move beyond just getting off on its own erudition and figuring out the pleasures of a sharply written plot or searing dialogue. Some of that can be found beyond the borders of what’s considered critically important.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →